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The matchups for the Big 12/SEC Challenge Presented by Sonic – staged for the first time on a common bye date of Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, during the conference schedule – are headlined by four preseason top-10 teams of No. 1 Kentucky, No. 3 Iowa State, No. 6 Kansas and No. 10 Oklahoma. The third annual event matches all 10 of the Big 12 members against 10 teams from the Southeastern Conference. Each conference will host five games with the network and tip time designations announced at a later date.
Eight of the 10 games will be televised on ESPN or ESPN2 and two games will air on ESPNU. All 10 games will also be available via WatchESPN.
ESPN’s College GameDay Covered by State Farm – the Saturday morning and evening roadshow that discusses the top storylines of the college basketball season – will originate from one of the Challenge games, to be announced at a later date.
In addition to No. 1 Kentucky, No. 3 Iowa State, No. 6 Kansas and No. 10 Oklahoma, the field includes eight total teams ranked in Eamonn Brennan’s ESPN.com early preseason top 25 poll: No. 17 Baylor; No. 19 LSU; No. 23 Texas and No. 24 Texas A&M.
Additional Challenge highlights:
- Georgia is a first-time participant in the Big 12/SEC Challenge, while Arkansas, LSU, Tennessee and Texas A&M are appearing for the second time.
- Three top-25 matchups include No. 1 Kentucky at No. 6 Kansas, No. 3 Iowa State at No. 24 Texas A&M and No. 10 Oklahoma at No. 19 LSU.
- First-time Challenge matchups for Kentucky-Kansas, Georgia-Baylor, Tennessee-TCU, Iowa State-Texas A&M, Oklahoma-LSU, West Virginia-Florida, Oklahoma State-Auburn and Texas Tech-Arkansas.
- Second-time Challenge matchups for Vanderbilt-Texas and Ole Miss-Kansas State.
- Alabama, Mississippi State, Missouri and South Carolina will not be competing in this year’s Challenge.
- Twelve teams competed in the 2015 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship: Final Four participant Kentucky; Sweet 16 teams Oklahoma and West Virginia; as well as Arkansas, Baylor, Georgia, Iowa State Kansas, LSU, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss and Texas.
- The Challenge field has 29 players ranked in the 2015 ESPN Recruiting Nation 100, including five of the top 15: No. 1 Ben Simmons (PF, LSU); No. 2 Skal Labissiere (C, Kentucky); No. 7 Cheick Diallo (PF, Kansas); No. 13 Isaiah Briscoe (PF, Kentucky) and No. 15 Antonio Blakeney (SG, LSU).
- Kentucky fields the No. 2-ranked incoming class, LSU stands at No. 3 and Texas A&M is No. 6 in the 2015 ESPN Recruiting Nation Class Rankings.
2015-16 SEC/Big 12 Challenge schedule (networks & times will be announced in August)
|Sat, Jan 30||No. 1 Kentucky at No. 6 Kansas|
|Vanderbilt at No. 23 Texas|
|Georgia at No. 17 Baylor|
|Tennessee at TCU|
|Ole Miss at Kansas State|
|No. 3 Iowa State at No. 24 Texas A&M|
|No. 10 Oklahoma at No. 19 LSU|
|West Virginia at Florida|
|Oklahoma State at Auburn|
|Texas Tech at Arkansas|
The 2014 Challenge, which saw the Big 12 winning six of the matchups, was held from December 3 to December 6. The inaugural event in 2013, won by the Big 12 with seven victories, was played across various dates in November and December.
ESPN.com “Looking Ahead” Series
ESPN.com launched its “Looking Ahead” series of previews for each team in a Power 5 conference plus programs outside the Power 5 that could make noise on the national stage on April 13. ESPN.com will continue with a new post examining what comes next for each team every day until July 8. A hyperlink to the preview for each Challenge team that has been posted is below. The scheduled date for the remaining teams is included.
|Kansas||Kentucky (June 3)|
|Iowa State||Arkansas (June 4)|
|Oklahoma||LSU (June 5)|
|Baylor||Georgia (June 6)|
|West Virginia||Ole Miss (June 7)|
|Oklahoma State||Texas A&M (June 8)|
|Texas||Vanderbilt (June 9)|
|Kansas State||Florida (June 10)|
|TCU||Alabama (June 11)|
|Texas Tech||Tennessee (June 12)|
|South Carolina (June 13)|
|Mississippi State (June 14)|
|Auburn (June 15)|
|Missouri (June 16)|